Background: Patients with osteoarthritis (OA) take a variety of health supplements in an attempt to reduce pain and improve function. The aim of this study was to determine the efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in treating patients with knee OA.
Methods: This study was a prospective, randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial. Forty nine men and women 45-90 (mean 68 ± SD 7.3) years of age with knee OA according to the American College of Rheumatology clinical criteria for OA of the knee and with radiographic confirmed knee OA were enrolled in the study and randomly assigned into 2 groups: One received MSM in doses of 1.125 grams 3 times daily for 12 weeks and the other received a placebo in the same dosing frequency. The primary outcomes were the WOMAC Osteoarthritis Index for pain, stiffness and physical function, the Aggregated Locomotor Function (ALF) test that evaluates each patient's physical function, the SF-36 quality of life health survey and the visual-analogue-scale (VAS) for pain. The secondary outcomes were Knee Society Clinical Rating System for Knee Score (KSKS) and Function Score (KSFS). Patients were assessed at baseline, 6 weeks and 12 weeks. All continuous variables were tested by the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test for Normal distribution. Changes within the groups and differences between the groups were calculated by repeated measures of analysis (ANOVA) with one nested variable.
Results: There were significant differences between treatment groups over time in WOMAC physical function (14.6 mm [CI: 4.3, 25.0]; p = 0.04) and in WOMAC total score (15.0 mm [CI: 5.1, 24.9]; p = 0.03). Treatment groups did not differ significantly in WOMAC pain (12.4 mm [CI: 0.0, 24.8]); p = 0.08) or WOMAC stiffness (27.2 mm [CI: 8.2, 46.2]; p = 0.08). There was a non-significant difference in SF-36 total score between treatment groups (11.6 [CI: 1.0, 22.1]; p = 0.54). A significant difference was found between groups in VAS for pain (0.7 s [CI: -0.9, 2.4]; p = 0.05). Secondary outcomes showed non-significant differences between the two groups.
Conclusions: Patients with OA of the knee taking MSM for 12 weeks showed an improvement in pain and physical function. These improvements, however, are small and it is yet to be determined if they are of clinical significance.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT01188213.